Karrie Webb has achieved everything the game of golf has to offer. Yet, she’s still hungry for more.
The Queenslander tees off tomorrow morning in the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open determined to add a sixth Patricia Bridges Bowl to her haul of 42 LPGA Tour titles – 23 years after making her professional debut at Royal Adelaide Golf Club.
The then 19-year-old missed the cut in the 1994 Australian Open but in the two decades that followed she claimed the championship a record five times.
While her very best golf might be behind her, she still has that trademark fighting spirit inside the ropes.
“If I’m at a golf tournament, especially when I’m committing to a full year, I’m not just here so everyone can say it’s great to see me – I’m here to try and win,” she said.
But the seven-time major winner wasn’t always certain she’d be playing a full schedule in 2017. After missing Australia’s team for the Rio Olympics she was having uncharacteristic doubts.
“One of the things I had to re-assess was that I didn’t go to the Olympics, which was really disappointing, and really it took me a while to work out what I wanted to do,” she said.
But a more familiar sounding Webb added: “But the game has been so good to me … I couldn’t let not making an Olympics bring all of that down.”
Australia’s two leading players Minjee Lee and Su Oh weren’t born when Webb made her debut at Royal Adelaide all those years ago. But rather than bask in the longevity of her career, the World Golf Hall of Famer is worried that the youth movement on the LPGA Tour could be dejecting some players.
“My fear for the young girls is that it’s either Lydia Ko or a fail,” she said. “My fear is that, and I’ve seen it with the young Aussie girls, is that they feel like if they’re not ready to play on the world stage at 18, then they’re past it – I’m 42 and still playing.”
And she’s still playing well. In 2016 Webb made 15 of 20 cuts on the LPGA Tour, including three top-10s and a third-place finish at the Australian Open.
On and off the course, Webb is an icon. She’s inspired past and current players, and she’ll inspire future players. And that’s where she sees her future once her playing career comes to an end.
“I do want to continue mentoring the young Aussie girls; that’s really important to me,” she said.
For now, though, Webb still feels she has plenty left to offer on the course and is excited to be back in Australia. “I hope I still have plenty left. I’m looking forward to starting this week and starting another new year,” she said.